What is the difference between the verbs "ser" and "estar"?
Both "ser" and "estar" mean "to be." "Ser" is used for permanent or unchanging, while "estar" is used for states of being, feelings, and other more changeable factors. For example, "ser" is appropriate when stating where you are from. "Yo soy de los estados unidos." In this case, the speaker will always be from the United States, so "ser" is the appropriate verb. The same person might say "Yo estoy feliz," meaning "I am happy." In this case, the speaker feels happy right now, but may feel sad or embarrassed tomorrow. Emotions are, by nature, changeable. This makes "estar" the appropriate choice.
What are checks and balances and how do these play out in U.S. government?
Checks and balances are a way to prevent any one department, government branch, or individual from having too much power. The U.S. government is divided into three branches: Executive, Legislative, and Judicial. Each branch has clearly defined powers and is limited by the powers of the other branches. For example, Congress (Legislative) creates laws, but the President (Executive) is able to veto those laws through use of a Presidential Veto. Those laws can also be struck down by the Supreme Court (Judicial) should they be found unconstitutional. The laws are enforced day to day by the Executive branch through federal agencies. The Legislative branch has the power to impeach the President, approve Presidential nominations, and control the budget. The Judicial branch has the power to interpret law, but federal justices are appointed (with Congressional approval) by the President. Each branch has some power to limit the other two, creating a strategic separation of power.
Describe the most common theater spaces.
Theaters are often defined by the audience to performer relationship and the position of the stage. Both fixed and flexible stages are common and it is helpful to understand the terms used for the most common setups. A proscenium theater is the most well-known and is often characterized by a framing arch on the wall that separates audience from stage. This arch acts as a picture frame for the action on the stage. Some stages continue far past the arch, thrusting into the audience to create a more intimate playing space. This is aptly called a thrust stage. Often, the audience will be seated around the thrust, creating a multi-sided playing space. Theaters in the round take this further by seating the audience around the playing space. The performance takes place in the center and is viewed from all sides. A black box theater is a flexible performance space, which can be adapted to each individual production. The theater is a blank slate and is often exactly as implied by the name: an empty black box. Any of the other theater types can be created within this flexible setting. A site-specific theater piece takes place in a (usually non-traditional) setting that is specific to the production, such as a park or business. Environmental or immersive theater usually takes place in an elaborate setting with extensive detail that the audience is invited to explore. This could be a real-life setting (ie. a show performed in an currently or previously operating hotel) or one created by the theater company specifically for the production (ie. a hotel built inside a warehouse solely for the production).